Just slightly north of Indianapolis, the Hamilton County suburbs of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, and Westfield hold enough appeal to merit a full-fledged vacation all their own. Whether you're traveling with friends, family, a partner, or just by yourself, you'll find something that meets your interests. Here, you’ll experience outdoor attractions, museums, arts and culture, shopping, and dining—all infused with a hearty dose of friendly Hoosier hospitality. Here are ten must-do items to put on your Hamilton County itinerary.
Step Back in Time at Conner Prairie
This landmark living history museum on the outskirts of Fishers has long been a favorite field trip destination for regional school kids, but the site also maintains a year-round schedule of immersive experiences, fun events, and educational programming. A few highlights include the 1836 Prairietown village where you can get to know a cast of costumed interpreters, the 1859 Balloon Voyage for a tethered bird’s-eye view of the surrounding cornfields, the Symphony on the Prairie summer concert series, and the annual Headless Horseman Festival and Apple Store each October.
Explore Carmel’s Arts & Design District
The chic boutiques, art galleries, salons, and upscale eateries that populate the Arts & Design District contribute heavily to Old Town Carmel’s reputation for class and sophistication. The startlingly lifelike J. Seward Johnson Jr.’s “Man on the Street” sculptures that dot the district provide a perfect excuse to stop and snap a selfie.
Catch a Show
The European-style Center for the Performing Arts anchors Hamilton County’s cultural scene, with the 1,600-seat Palladium concert hall as its crown jewel. With pitch-perfect acoustics and stunning décor, the venue attracts a wow-worthy lineup of shows and genre-spanning artists from Johnny Mathis and Gladys Knight to Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, and John Cleese. The smaller-scale Tarkington Theater and Studio Theater round out the campus with their more intimate performances. In nearby Noblesville, big-name touring bands and music festivals tend to stop at the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center amphitheater for outdoor shows throughout the summer.
Wander Noblesville’s Historic Town Square
Spend a pleasant morning or afternoon browsing the quaint shops and fueling up at the local restaurants that radiate around the handsome, Second Empire-style Hamilton County Courthouse. The Nickel Plate Arts campus—just a block off the main square—houses studios and galleries, in addition to hosting hands-on classes and other events. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to sample the signature gooey butter cookies at Rosie’s Place.
Ride the Nickel Plate Express
All year round, the Nickel Plate Express runs themed rail excursions through the wide-open spaces of the Hamilton County countryside, from downtown Atlanta to Noblesville. Take your pick from a schedule that includes family-friendly Pumpkin, Wizard, and Reindeer Express rides, as well as dinner-and-drinks experiences for the grown-ups.
Feast Your Way Through Westfield’s Restaurant Row
Make your way to the tiny town of Westfield to enjoy an eclectic row of eateries that includes the Italian House on Park, the farm-to-table Rail, Chiba (where you can get sushi with a New Orleans spin), Greek’s Pizzeria, and Cone + Crumb ice cream parlor.
Sip and Dine at Sun King Spirits
Sited directly on the Monon Trail that runs through Carmel’s Midtown District, the Sun King Spirits distillery serves up a one-stop dining and drinking experience. Here, you can get craft cocktails that pack a punch and tacos, pizza, sandwiches, and other casual eats in an all-ages-welcome food hall atmosphere. Stick around before or after your meal to play some ping pong or pitch some cornhole beanbags in the outdoor entertainment area.
Spend Some Time in the Great Outdoors
Strawtown Koteewi Park offers a unique variety of ways to commune with Mother Nature in Hamilton County. Saddle up for a ride at K-Trails Equestrian Adventures, test your skills with a bow and arrow at the Koteewi Range Sport & Target Archery Center, or take to the ropes to tackle the treetop trails and ziplines of Edge Adventures Indianapolis. In the winter, the groomed Koteewi Run Seasonal Snow Tubing hill lures adventurers for thrilling downhill rides.
Caffeinate and Shop in One Stop
In the most rural reaches of northern Hamilton County sits the road trip-worthy Mercantile 37 boutique. Father-and-son owners J.R. and Nick Roudebush curate a well-rounded inventory of retro gifts, lighting fixtures, jewelry, and home décor sourced from more than 50 Indiana artisans, along with custom furniture and items they create in their own studio space at the back of the store. The connecting Wheelers Cafe and Market carries a small selection of locally produced goods and food stuffs, in addition to high-quality coffee drinks, breakfast sandwiches, and lunchtime paninis.
Scale Down at the Museum of Miniature Houses
Good things come in small packages at Carmel’s adorable Museum of Miniature Houses and Other Collections. Imagine a museum of fine art in miniature size with permanent exhibits that include painstakingly tended dollhouses, the oldest dating back to 1861. Magnifying glasses make it easy to get a closer look, and scavenger hunts add to the enjoyment for younger visitors.